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January 16, 2004

THE BASE vs. THE MIDDLE....John Emerson emailed me with a comment related to my previous post that I think is worth sharing. Basically, he feels that a strategy to appeal to the middle inevitably pulls the Democratic party ever rightward, and instead of simply accepting this we should be fighting to move the electorate leftward.

I think he's right: we do need to have a long-term strategy to promote liberal values and policies. Although I think the rightward drift of American politics is often exaggerated, it is real and Republicans have outplayed us in this arena. Fixing this is, to coin a phrase, a long, hard slog.

But at the same time there's also a short term reality, which is that when elections roll around we have to compete seriously for centrist voters. That's just a fact of life.

So by all means, let's work on the long term task of moving the political discourse in our direction. That's one of the things this blog is for. But when elections come along let's not let ideological purity cause us to commit suicide. To activists, I urge you not to express contempt for those who are basically on our side but don't feel as strongly as you do. Make them feel welcome instead. To moderates, I urge you to relax a bit if the campaign rhetoric gets a little more strident than you're comfortable with. It's just politics.

OK?

Posted by Kevin Drum at January 16, 2004 09:41 PM | TrackBack


Comments

Why does everyone assume that the the "swing" voters are centrists? And why assume that they are the SAME voters in different elections, and are therefore to be placed somewhere between Democrats and Repubiucans on a scale? On the surface the phrasing makes it sound like they are somewhere between the Democrats and the Republicans, but has this been explored? Are there really a lot of people who do show up to vote and sometimes vote Democrat and sometimes Republican? I mean the SAME individuals? Or are we talking about blocks of voters who show up and vote one way an another election a different block showing up and voting another way?

When 50% of the public doesn't vote, that leaves a lot of room for all kinds of people to be showing up outside of the two party "bases". In one election a lot of "leftist" voters might be deciding to show up and "rightist" voters deciding to stay home. In a different election it might be the other way around.

Remember how Gore's poll numbers went up after he started talking "populist?"

Perhaps if the Democrats were to take a more progressive position, and the Republicans were to take a more rightist position (is that possible?) could there then be a 70% turnout, with that additional 20% voting 10% Democrat and 10% Republican.

Just a thought. Are we SURE it is the SAME individuals, therefore necessitating that the Democrats try to sound like sort-of Republicans, and the Republicans pretending to have a lot of black people at their conventions?

Posted by: Dave Johnson at January 16, 2004 09:51 PM | PERMALINK

One more thing -- Dean's the one with the 'A' rating from the NRA. That brings back W. VA. and Tennessee right there.

Posted by: Dave Johnson at January 16, 2004 09:55 PM | PERMALINK

"left" "middle" and "right" is a crock of crap.

Rising health care costs, offshoring jobs, closing manufacturing plants, education, commute times, being a good steward of tax dollars ...

not sounding and behaving like you're more interested in keeping your job in Washington DC than in governing is what matters.

Anything else is pundit trying to make a living.

Posted by: dorsano at January 16, 2004 10:04 PM | PERMALINK

Calpundit's Raiders.

Our mantra:

Just win baby.

Posted by: -pea- at January 16, 2004 10:17 PM | PERMALINK

Party ID is roughly 33-33-33 D-I-R in competitive states. Of the Is, about 1/3 consistently support D, and 1/3 consistently support R. So you are left with about 10% actual swing votes (could go D or R). In '92, with Reagan Democrats, swing was about 20%. Currently Is as a group lean Dem on issues. A bit over half of all of these people vote.

So, the argument is to maximise the base vote, and then pick off the easiest slices of the swing. The party that can get its base to outperform the other side will win.

Dean might have an interesting advantage here. The Bush supporters I know think Dean has no chance in the general, so they would not be particularly motivated if he were our candidate. Confident Bush supporters can lead to a Bush loss. The ones I know are military and not as sanguine about Clark.

Posted by: tib at January 16, 2004 10:19 PM | PERMALINK

Dave: no, it's not the same people each time. However, the classes of people who just generally don't vote at all are pretty stable.

Getting those nonvoters to vote is really, really hard. Nobody's ever done it successfully yet. What's more, there's no special reason to think that a more liberal (or more conservative) candidate would appeal to the nonvoters. Most of them are fairly apathetic, so why would stronger ideology appeal to them?

Basically, I just want to try and appeal to as many people as possible. Too many activists are contemptuous of cautious liberals, and too many moderates are scared off by a bit of ringing rhetoric. It's self defeating.

Posted by: Kevin Drum at January 16, 2004 10:21 PM | PERMALINK

I think that one of the big factors that lost Congress to the Republicans in 1994 was NAFTA. Organized labor got pissed off at the Democrats and stayed home, and the loss of those get-out-the-vote efforts cost a lot of close seats.

Similarly, Bush 41 lost in part because, by breaking his no-new-taxes pledge, he lost the enthusiastic support of a lot of Republicans, many of whom stayed home or voted for Perot.

So you most certainly can lose by alienating your base; swinging to the middle can sometimes lose you votes.


Posted by: Joe Buck at January 16, 2004 10:29 PM | PERMALINK

When I went to "Democratic Party Campaign Academy" some time back, and learned about processing voter lists, and the calculations of applying resources to target precincts, etc... it occurred to me that the strategies that are optimized for maximum application of resources on the short term actually cannibalize your support in the long term. The idea is that you go after your more likely voters and turn them out because this is the most efficient use of (usually) scarce GOTV resources.

But in the long term there is very little being done to grow that core base. It has been a process of just relying on them to exist. The resources are constantly applied to the existing base, and of that to the most active of the existing base, would cause the less active base - and outside of that the occasional voter - to become less and less active.

For all the talk of "appealing to the swing voter" it is more a matter of placing a lot of ads and making a lot of speeches in a short period before the election, and hoping they attract these "swing voters" and that they will show up, but working on your base for turnout. Resources are NOT applied to getting turnout from other than the base. AND longer term efforts are not applied to PERSUADING new voters to support the core of the party ideals. It is jsut so much more efficient to apply resources to the GOTV effort of getting that base out.

The right has this persuasion infrastructure in place (I'll be posting about that at american street Monday). "Our side" does not. As Simon Rosenberg over at New Dems points out: "our side" is now the minority party and can't rely on turnout to win anymore. WE need to start persuading as well. And to build the BASE you can't be trying out centrist messages to see fi they hook over people who might be Republicans otherwise!

I am NOT advocating a centrist "swing voter" strategy - the Republicans will have them this time because they are the incumbents, if there really is a mythical "swing voter" in the center. And they are wishy washy and don't understand what they are voting for, and the "centrist" efforts are based on trickers like Republicans pretending to have black people at their convention. I am advocating that we get out there and persuade, get more people involved, talk to more people, and presuade them that our ideals are better for them!

We might not win this election, and I don't think that depends on who our candidate is really. But if we continue to apply a "centrist" formula where we are trying to be kind of like Republicans, all we are doing in the long term is cannibalizing our future base. Especially if that causes the Greens to get stronger.

Posted by: Dave Johnson at January 16, 2004 10:31 PM | PERMALINK

The Democrats don't need to play down the leftist rhetoric during the general election.

The left needs take stock of itself and admit that it is wrong.

Most of the issues which used to motivate the left -- racism, sexism, the pro-choice movement -- are no longer relevant today.

There just isn't that much racial discrimination any more. Racial and ethnic minorities continue to suffer many disadvantages, but there are no real governmental solutions to most of these social ills. Moreover, the Republicans are no longer a racist party. Guys like Trent Lott and Strom Thurmond are slowly but surely dying out. The influence of the Bob Jones University crowd is shrinking year by year. And -- this is important -- even Trent Lott didn't want to bring back segregation or slavery. The racists are nothing but shadows of their former selves.

The pro-life movement might have been motivated by sexism and a desire to keep women "in their place" at one time, but this is no longer the case. Most of today's pro-lifers are not sexists. They are just people who are uncomfortable with the intentional killing of a fetus. We don't have to agree with their position, but there is nothing hateful or dishonroable about it.

As Kevin noted the other day, we have won the culture war. Illegitimacy, interracial marriage, gay adoption -- all of these things are accepted parts of life in virtually every state of the union.

But the left continues to behave as if these issues are still viable. Anyone who opposes affirmative action is attacked as a racist. Pro-life voters are accused of sexism.

The left needs to declare victory and go home. These issues are dead, dead, dead. Reasonable people may disagree over particular issues like abortion and affirmative action, but these disagreements are just that -- reasonable -- and cannot really be described as "liberal" or "conservative."

The left is no longer relevant with regard to social issues. Its public policies are no longer relevant either. Urban development, AFDC, public housing -- these were disasters.

Leftists need to realize that throwing money at a problem is no longer a viable policy recommendation. Calls for more money for education when combined with an opposition to teacher testing are going to fall on deaf ears.

Lastly -- and this is the one that really bothers me -- Leftists need to stop demonizing their opponents. People who call for school vouchers are not interested in "eliminating all public eduacation." Those who want to privatize part of social security are generally trying to make it more efficient. They are not trying to "destroy" it. I still do not understand leftists' argument that Bush's expensive new prescription drug benefit is actually designed to "destroy" Medicare. Stop it with these ludicrious the-sky-is-falling doom-and-gloom accusations, already! The voters are sick of it!

There are still many honorable things that the left can and should propose. We really do need universal health coverage. This is a clear example of a situation in which the free market has failed. The deficit is a legitimate problem. Bush's handling of the corporate corruption scandals has been grossly deficient. We should be conducting research into alternative sources of energy.

But the left has got to face up to the fact that many of its most cherished beliefs are simply no longer relevant today.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at January 16, 2004 10:43 PM | PERMALINK

You go, Joe Schmoe!

But Kevin, what about Lieberman? Can't he go join the Republican Party already?

Posted by: Jane Doe at January 16, 2004 10:47 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think the country does much of its moving to the left or right during elections but rather between elections. Remember how many people thought Bush the Lesser was a centrist during the 2000 elections, to such an extent that a large number of people essentially said "Bush or Gore? Feh, they're the same"? Elections are about appealing to certain basic instincts in people, convincing them that you are likeable, trustworthy, and have a plan or two about something. And that usually means moving to the center, since you offend the fewest people there.

But Teddy Roosevelt was right when he called the Presidency a bully pulpit; the President often frames the national agenda. Seldom has that been so obvious as during the last three years, when Shrub the MisLeader dragged the country far, far right of his campaign promises. That movement of the country has turned many things upside-down, to where the Democrats can now actually run on a platform of fiscal responsibility. It's a strange world.

Posted by: Ted at January 16, 2004 10:54 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,
I think I disagree with you, but I'm not sure because I don't understand your terminology.

Just what are liberal values????

I'm an independent, but I usually end up voting democratic partly because I find that the democratic party is more concerned with the issues that effect typical working folks. Lately, because they are the lesser of two evils.

Also, I am educated in economics and can appreciate the limitations of the free market model. I know that privatization is not always a good idea and that there is great value in public goods.

I don't appreciate the right wing's assertion that this is a "christian nation".

I find the right's tendencies toward classism and racism to be repugnant.

I strongly believe in upholding and defending the Bill of Rights and the Constitution itself. I feel that the actions of the right wing prove that they would sacrifice the same in pursuit of their objectives; objectives that I am certain are contrary to the very fundemental cornerstones of democracy.

I think cannabis should be legalized (maybe psychedelics too).

However, liberals (left wingers or whatever you want to call them) bother me as well. I am really turned off by their eternal quest to identify and then save the victims of the day, snail darters, peg legged homosexual ebonics speaking Nicaraguan communists, etc, etc, etc, etc. by handing over to them my tax dollars.

And then there's familly values.

I know I'm contradicting the above asserted allegiance to the Bill of Rights and Constitution, but I could care less about gay marriage and that sort of thing. In fact I find the whole topic distasteful.

I'm pretty Norman Rockwellian in my family values outlook. I think that liberal arguements in this department are those of the young, the inexperienced, or the deranged.

Example:

I might agree with liberals on an academic level that porn should be legal. Practically, I wouldn't want my daughter involved in the industry and I'll bet that none of you would either. And if none of us would want our daughters starring in a porn flick then why should we expect someone else's daughter to be there just for our or someone else's cheap gratification?

I also am appalled when I hear lefties denegrating our military and going so far as to suggest that any war is wrong (though I think that the Iraq war was a sinister manipulation by Bush and was, indeed, wrong for many reasons familiar to most here).

I own guns and enjoy shooting them.
I think that when when liberals advocate gun control they are appealing to the squishy wimps of our culture; people who don't discipline their children or teach them respect for serious matters (like firearm safety).

I think liberals are excuse makers in general.

Simply put, liberals support a lot of things that many Americans find offensive and these things tend to be close to home.

Anyhow, I think I'm typical of the relatively centrist voter.
If it's true that I am, then the left would do itself a great favor by trimming off its more radical fringe. Stop including (or at least stop over emphasizing) the agendas of the bizarre, of the fragmented fringe.

If you want to win, return to the agenda of Clinton.

Posted by: avedis at January 16, 2004 11:25 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

If the undecideds/middle of the roaders/centrists are supposed to ignore the "ringing rhetoric" coming from the activists? Then who exactly is "ringing rhetoric" supposed to persuade? Aren't the activists already convinced????

Posted by: spc67 at January 16, 2004 11:37 PM | PERMALINK

You know, I don't think I've ever had as much agreement with a Joe Schmoe post. Just a couple quibbles: it's not that the left has failed across the board, but that it didn't have the discipline to revisit programs that had failed and change them (e.g., ADFC, and, I hate to say it, race-based university admissions). So the center and right have to do our dirty work for us.

I also think he should recognize that the deficit, which he agrees is a problem, is a well-justified doom-and-gloom. The deficit isn't bad because God said so, but because eventually the Govt will be too constrained to fund Social Security and Medicare. Bush's M.O. all term has been to approve the program and then leave it starved of necessary capital.

I especially like his list of liberal campaign issues and he's right on every one.

Posted by: Andrew Lazarus at January 17, 2004 12:07 AM | PERMALINK

The campaign desk just started by the Columbia school of journalism has an interesting post on this issue. The writer claims that attracting new voters vs. taking part back the center is a false dichotomy. All parties agree that politicians should be forthright, not corrupt, etc. A candidate believed to have these qualities can attract activists and moderates.

http://campaigndesk.org/

Posted by: Matt at January 17, 2004 12:14 AM | PERMALINK

And if none of us would want our daughters starring in a porn flick then why should we expect someone else's daughter to be there just for our or someone else's cheap gratification?

as a "very small-L libertarian" I find this logic rather addle-pated. You want to enjoy porn but you don't want to view people's daughters being degraded thereby? May I recommend gay porn or computer-generated porn then?

I also am appalled when I hear lefties denegrating our military

Criticism need not be denigration.

Posted by: Troy at January 17, 2004 01:59 AM | PERMALINK

Nonsense and bunk.

This left right thing will do nothing except expose the stupid among us.

Posted by: Matt Young at January 17, 2004 02:22 AM | PERMALINK

This has been said before, but it bears repeating: the left wing of the Democratic party would be considered rather right-wing in Canada and most of Europe, especially on social issues like health and education.

Posted by: Anon at January 17, 2004 02:55 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin:

You and Emerson need to look at this quantitatively. Trying to pull the electorate leftward worked after they were softened up by Vietnam and the 60's. But 9/11 is another event entirely.

Here's a bunch of data that quantifies the dramatic shift towards Republican registration in swing states. Like it or not, the center has moved right for the foreseeable future.

Posted by: godlesscapitalist at January 17, 2004 03:58 AM | PERMALINK

Um, could Bush be any further right? Yet no one is thinking that "oh, he's way too far right to win."

It is all about perception and traction. The media owners are all solidly Bush/Cheneyites, and their workers are lazy and vain. So the election is Earth Tones and Lies. Or this time, Anger and Raises Taxes! Hg in the air, third-world-level debt, Pickerings on the courts, overtime stripped, etc. -- none of these will matter.

The Repugs define, the media regurgitates, and the Dems say nothing so as to not offend "the middle." And we're well into the intro for the "Fall" portion of "The rise and fall of the U.S."

Posted by: MattB at January 17, 2004 05:31 AM | PERMALINK

The time to try to move the electorate back leftward is NOT an election. The war of ideas is something you conduct BETWEEN elections. What you do during an election is try to win the most votes.

Posted by: rea at January 17, 2004 05:50 AM | PERMALINK

Lastly -- and this is the one that really bothers me -- Leftists need to stop demonizing their opponents.

This is certainly something the Right would never engage in. Ask Bill and Hillary Clinton. Only the Leftists do this.

Posted by: Pug at January 17, 2004 05:58 AM | PERMALINK

Demonizing Clinton worked in neither 1992 nor 1996.

--|PW|--

Posted by: pennywit at January 17, 2004 06:50 AM | PERMALINK

The long-term problem with appealing to the mushy middle, or moving the party rightward is that over time what was once the left has now become the middle. Witness the 2002 Senate debates in the South, where the GOP effectively tied Dem candidates to those whacked out Liberals in their party: Tom Daschle and Hillary Clinton!

The overall problem Dems have is two-fold: the lack of an effective propoganda apparatus, and an unwillingness to fight for principle.

Someone mentioned upthread about the failures of the Great Society, and the Dems(possibly deservered) inability/unwillingness to reevaluate and discontinue those programs that didn't work as a huge factor in the current Democratic dilemma. Uh, that was 40 years ago, but conservatives still harp on those failures as if they were yesterday, and they are probably as fixed in the mind of voters(even amongst voters that are too young to even remember them) as an impression of the party as if they occurred yesterday.

Groups like the DLC decided it's best not to fight that image by building a countering propoganda network, nor defend the Democratic record. Instead, they took the reactionary route: move toward the public's misconceptions instead of fighting them.

As a result, the party as a whole- one that generally believes in the power of gvt. to affect change- is also wedded to not spending any money to affect change in a meaningful way because they reacted to labels like 'free spenders' by trying to prove they were tighter with a buck then goopers. Yet people still don't believe it...
In the meantime, goopers spend out the wazoo into huge deficts, yet their voters are not converted into Dem votes.

The problem is a long term lack of an infrastructure for propoganda and reactionary thinking within our own party.

Posted by: jdw at January 17, 2004 07:07 AM | PERMALINK

I can't emphasize enough how bogus this left / middle / right is. It is only perception. Period. We had Bush's record in TX, and Cheney's extremism, but no one but Ivins bothered to look at / report it. (Three years too late, the NYT points out that the TX Miracle was a fraud. Thanks.)

I'm a Dean supporter, 'cause the only chance the US has is with a candidate / campaign that recognizes that this election will be a referendum on Bush. But I realize that Dean may not be shaping up as the best candidate. His tax proposal is "bad" politics, and, most importantly, the media hates him. I thought that maybe the Deaniac phenomenon would overcome the media, but they can't even beat Hair Kerry the Corpse in IA.

Right now, I think our best (but not only) chance is Clark / Dean, with Clark being strong and smart, Dean attacking *Cheney* relentlessly, and Edwards as AG attacking Ashcroft tirelessly (and a full shadow cabinet working hard around the country).

The country already agrees on the issues. But we keep getting trounced. Perceptions.

Posted by: MattB at January 17, 2004 07:12 AM | PERMALINK

could Bush be any further right

But Bush really isn't "right wing". Oh, true, he's right wing on stupid things like partial birth abortion and environmental stuff. And of course there is Iraq, though neocons in general are more updated Trotskyists than "right wing".

But his medicare boondoggle, his protectionist tariffs, his massive expansion of the federal bureaucracy, his shadowboxing triangulation on racial preferences and his amnesty plan for illegal aliens...no, Bush really isn't very right wing at all.

Posted by: godlesscapitalist at January 17, 2004 07:21 AM | PERMALINK

I think the Left (loosely defined) has won practically all the battles.

On culture the victory has been absolute. I can't think of a single area of our culture where we are not more liberal today than a generation ago.

On economics the victory is large but not as absolute. If you define deregulation as right wing clearly there has been a movement to the right. But I would argue that on many issues deregulation is actually a move to the left (or maybe that the left/right divide does not apply). Think of deregulation that has resulted in reduced costs for consumers.

On fiscal issues the left has also won. The 20th century saw a major left/right debate about the size and role of government. The left won. No one preternds to drasticaly reduce the size or role of government. The GOP is either tinkering on side issues or, mostly, actually increasing govt.

Even the still open issues (SS reform) the debate has moved to the left. There was a time wehn conservatives were against SS on principle. SS is, after all, the government forcing you to save for old age (yes, and life and disability insurance as well). Conservatives used to argue that govt should not be forcing people to do that.

No longer. Conservatives no longer debate the aims of SS, only the means. And even if they are successful and manage to fully 'privatize' SS that will likely increase the role of Govt, which will be heavily regulating the investments allowed.

We need a more modern Left that recognizes that the Old Left has won much and now needs to adapt to that reality.

Posted by: GT at January 17, 2004 07:38 AM | PERMALINK

Joe wrote: "The left needs take stock of itself and admit that it is wrong."

On what, Joe? They've been pretty much correct for the past 100 years or so, which is why much of the left's agenda has been adopted. They're even more correct today.

The rest of your rant was not backed up by either logic or facts. I started to fisk it, but I decided to not bother. When you've got some evidence to back up your mindless ranting, let me know. Until then, I'll give it all the respect it deserves.

Posted by: PaulB at January 17, 2004 08:41 AM | PERMALINK

No, listen to Zizka. Run to the left HARD. Don't let the country drift right.

Posted by: Reg at January 17, 2004 08:47 AM | PERMALINK

Digby had a good link to info on the swing voters for the upcoming election.

Posted by: J at January 17, 2004 09:07 AM | PERMALINK

Reg: I'm hoping for Clark. My conservative/independent born-again church-going mom just said she'd probably vote for Clark over Bush (whom from 2000-2002 tried to convince me that he was a divine gift to lead the US).

Now THAT is progress. The way my mom goes, so does the country.

Clark & Dean aren't that far apart ideologically, but with an obstructionist (R) congress I'd rather have a landslide (55%+) behind Clark for the leader of the nation.

Posted by: Troy at January 17, 2004 09:30 AM | PERMALINK

You're automatically translating "getting nonvoters" to "more liberal". It ain't necessarily so. The groups can overlap....I know that Trippi often says that people my age are the swing voters, and the Democrats need to get us or they will be a minority party. And McCain, for example, appealed more to both non-voters and swing voters than Bush.

Dean has the potential for that mojo, in a way that Gephardt and Lieberman and Kerry don't, in a way that is quite separate from ideology.

Charisma matters, and there is a personal emotional connection to a candidate that matters. Bobby Kennedy was more electable than Gene McCarthy, and it wasn't because his rhetoric was moderate. His rhetoric was better, and better delivered, and there was the emotional connection people still had with JFK. None of these candidates are in that league. To me Clark, Dean and Edwards are the only candidates who have any real charisma. None are in RFK territory, but these are skills that are learned. Dean does best on the stump; Clark does the best TV interview; Edwards does the best in a debate or a town hall meeting.

I agree that it's safer to have your congressional leaders standing up for liberal principles and your presidential nominee as a moderate type. But our Congressional leaders are ineffective wusses and that's not going to stop being true any time soon.

No guts, no glory.

Posted by: Katherine at January 17, 2004 09:44 AM | PERMALINK

It's a tribute to the Right's success at controlling the content of the national "conversation" that Joe Schmoe can get away with calling the Great Society a "failure," despite its documented success at improving the lives of millions of people. It may be true that programs were allowed to ossify and lose sight of their original goals; but "throwing money at problems" was part of the problem only in that not enough was thrown.

It's time for people to recognize that George Bush is going to win this election. For reasons I can't begin to understand -- but have something to do, I guess, with the paranoia and self-pity that have overwhelmed Americans' view of the world since 9/ll -- voters seem to be comfortable with this asshole. If you think voters care about his "record," you are living in a dream world; they only care about what a candidate says today, regardless of how it gibes with yesterday's positions. It does not hurt Bush that the national press has signed on enthusiastically to his team.

For the national Democratic leadership to reclaim the Dems' position as the party of social justice and prosperity for all would mean alienating the corporate interests Clinton so assiduously courted. The Clinton legacy is an albatross, not an example. John Emerson is right; the party must become one that speaks to the working poor to survive and grow. But this will not be easy; read David Shipler's piece on Caroline Payne in tomorrow's New York Times Magazine and ask yourself: what would you say to this woman to convince her that her vote might influence her life for the better?

Posted by: Hozee at January 17, 2004 09:51 AM | PERMALINK

I think most swing voters are less moderates and more politically ignorant in general. Now, that doesn't mean we shouldn't moderate to win voters. It DOES mean that winning those voters requires running a personably likeable candidate.

Now, the DLC has spent the last few years pushing the Democrats to move to the "Center". One of the wierd things about this is that the DLC is NOT centrist on all issues. Particularly in the area of free trade, they're not centrist at all. Indeed, Democrat free trade policies (While smart) play a negative role in winning the Swing States like Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, etc.

What ticks me off is that the DLC really seems to be a group of technocratic policy wonks who like free trade and basic social Liberalism and little redistribution of wealth on POLICY MERITS, but they try to push their policies as electable, when in fact they aren't the most electable combination. Americans lik smart redistribution - Education spending, etc. They don't like free trade.

Now, I actually agree with the DLC on a lot, and I think their policies CAN be a winnable combination. However, the Left and Democrats need to stop focusing on policy change as the route to victory. The media doesn't care about policy change. The people barely care about policy change. We need to run a personable, good candidate to win, and sometimes that might mean NOT going with the most centrist. In fact, really centrist candidates tend to be slightly less likeable than others.

Posted by: MDtoMN at January 17, 2004 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

So the Digby article confirms the notion that was trying to flounder out of my beer soaked brain last night; I am faily typical of the swing voter.

The Dems had better nominate Clark.

Clark is liberal where he should be (fiscal and economic policy, civil rights) and conservative enough where people like me don't swallow the lefty platform hook, line and sinker (military, family values).

Unlike Dean, we can look at Clark and see a "real man" who has done tough things and can be taken seriously on serious matters. I think this image is critical to the less ideologicaly bound center.

Nor does Clark have the stink of Washington insider spinelessness that Lieberman and Kerry emit.

Posted by: avedis at January 17, 2004 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

The Left has had the right answers, even considering the irritating interims where we wondered how to pronounce Ms., or what the eff is Ebonics? This is pretty well illustrated by the fact that the Rs can't get what they want legally.

That doesn't change the fact that the Rs own the media and most of everything else. We're basically like Argentina in the 70s, and experience doth shew that entrenched oligarchies, especially in the age of jet travel, don't feel a strong sense of identification with the welfare of the nation.

O'Neil is just the latest illustration that even the most impeccable conservative will be bullied and pilloried if they stray from the oligarchy's line. I'm old enough to remember when John Mitchell's wife said he would be made a scapegoat for Watergate. They took her away in a straightjacket and drugged her until she got back in line. The SCLM had nothing to say about this episode.

In practical terms I'm reminded of what a Chinese nurse said once- Being polite to others is a compliment to yourself, for it shows you are an educated person.

Posted by: serial catowner at January 17, 2004 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

PS- could we ever admit that "throwing money at problems" is exactly how we solve most of them? As a young person I didn't want to "throw money at problems" and I fixed my own plumbing, electrical etc. Eventually I learned the golden rule- get a job- get some money- throw it at your problem- and you won't spend the rest of your life re-inventing the wheel.

The simple fact is that the only way a corporation can solve a problem is by throwing money at it, and by throwing their failures in the memory hole. If we had simply spent the money on education for non-whites we'd be way ahead of where we are after trying for years to achieve fairness and equality. And hey, what about "defense"? We can't even remember what we're trying to do here, so we just keep spending on weapons with a vague hope that someday one of them might be useful for something.

Democrats will get no traction from admitting to verbal crimes they've never committed. We're talking about an election, not an American courtroom.

Posted by: serial catowner at January 17, 2004 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

This is John Emerson, Zizka's secret identity.

What I especially argued for in my piece was a long-term strategy of party-building. The registration shift Godless speaks of didn't just happen. It was the result of about four decades of effort and investment. It's my understanding that the Democrats do not make that effort, and that their only long-term strategy is continued courtship of the swing voters. Since the Republicans are building their base and we aren't, the rightward shift really is inevitable.

To me the Dem strategy is comparable to a weak basketball team playing a slowdown game and hoping for the last shot. A strong party could certainly play more aggressively.

For the last couple of years, anyway, I have not asked the Democrats to move to the left on the issues, so much as to play a tougher, more aggressive game. It's hard to win when you've forbidden yourself to take the game to the enemy. And this plays to the main weak spot in the Dem'c image -- the wimp factor. A party that campaigns wimpy will be peceived as wimpy. As the infamous Bartcop says, how can the Dems fight for the American people when they don't even fight for themselves? (This is why the Lieberman candidacy is such a joke. Conservative Southern Dems like him on the issues, but to the Southern voter he projects about as much macho as my mother would.)

So, as I keep saying, I'm Clark/Dean neutral, and I don't especially propose a leftward shift right at the moment. I just think that after the election the Democrats should rethink their long-term strategy -- win or lose.

I'm at Seeing the Forest now (URL posted), but here's something I wrote in the past on how DLC caution has materially hurt the Democrats (i.e., has been a loser strategy).

How the New Democrats have Hurt the Party

www.johnjemerson.com/zizka.newdem.htm

Posted by: Zizka at January 17, 2004 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

The fact that Kucinich, a candidate taking what I consider truly Democratic positions -- for national health insurance, for drastically cutting the defense budget -- is not only ignored but mocked by people who claim to be Democrats only deepens my pessimism about the party's future.

If it's true that only a candidate who appears "tough," who makes people FEEL GOOD, who is an attractive product, can win, than television has completely destroyed our political culture, and there is no need for serious people to invest their time and energy in it.

Posted by: Hozee at January 17, 2004 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Oops, I meant "then," of course.

Posted by: Hozee at January 17, 2004 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

I certainly don't think that 'drastically cutting the defense budget' is a truly Democratic position.

It may be a Naderite position but not a Democratic one.

Posted by: GT at January 17, 2004 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

It is in the Democratic Party in which I registered.

And it is the correct position, more to the point. The only one I can support.

Posted by: Hozee at January 17, 2004 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

It's fine that you believe that.

But I can't recall the last time any major presidential Democratic candidate (the best proxy for a 'national' Dem position) has campaigned on that.

Nor is it consistent with history. Dems have been at the forefront of a strong defense for this nation. WW2, The Cold War, Korea, even the misguided Vietnam were all 'setup' by Dems.

If you registered with the Dems thinking that on a national level they support a drastic cut in the defense budget it seems you made a mistake. And this is pre 9/11.

Posted by: GT at January 17, 2004 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

I am in favor of a strong defense. What I oppose is a defense industry that has become the nation's foremost "welfare queen." It is entirely possible to cut billions of dollars from the defense budget without threatening our security. Of course, this does not play well in the Democratic Party of today, whose major candidates actually seem to favor nightmarish boondoggles like the Missile Defense Initiative.

9/11 is irrelevant to this conversation.

Posted by: Hozee at January 17, 2004 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Hozee,

I am not trying to convince you to change your mind.

I am just pointing out that as far as I recall the Democrats have NEVER stood for dramatically cutting the defense budget. It is not just today's Dems. It has always been like that AFAIK.

If that is what you want I think you are in the wrong party.

Posted by: GT at January 17, 2004 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

GT,

You may be right about that.

But all I meant to say was that one can be in favor of "a strong defense for the nation," and still believe that much of the defense budget is being spent wastefully and could be put to better use, by the military and by other sectors of government.

This is, as I understand it, what Kucinich says; and the fact that he is belittled for it by Democrats makes those of us who consider ourselves "progressives" wonder if there is any place in the Democratic Party for us.

Posted by: Hozee at January 17, 2004 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

"It's a tribute to the Right's success at controlling the content of the national "conversation" that Joe Schmoe can get away with calling the Great Society a "failure," despite its documented success at improving the lives of millions of people."

Bingo. We see this crap constantly, and it drives the party into reactionary stances wherein we end up trying to play a role designed for us that we stand little chance of winning.

Witness our reactive posture with regards to 911: chimpco's poll numberes soared as Dems stood by like helpless patsies, afraid to level very legimate criticism of the admins dealing with that event...from it occuring on their watch, to stupid 'solutions' like duct tape and plastic sheeting, from their unilateralism and isolationist tendencies/disengagement. No big stink over unilateralism/preemption. No big stink over the squandering of worldwide sympathy and goodwill in the wake of 911.

(You can bet your last dollar that IF Gore woulda been in the WH at the time, the House woulda started impeachment procedings within a week. Not that this is 'right', but just that they understand how to win.)

As those numbers soared, because they lack any credible propoganda apparatus and unity and spine, the script was written by the gop that 2004 was gonna be FP/national defense and despite chimpco being a miserable failure in these areas, the idea was planted that our party HAD TO REACT to that phoney bullshit.

So what do we do as a party? As Kerry floundered, we went looking for a white knight who would save us from getting creamed by chimpco's 'brilliant' defense/fp 'record', and we desperately, pathetically latch onto a guy who despite a stellar record we think can beat the chimp while overlooking that once the gop smears that record he has little left to stand on.

That's how pathetic our party as a whole has become. The party of FDR, Truman, the Marshall Plan, JFK...we are now indelibly linked to being 'weak' on defense, unless we can pray that we can find a general with a D next to his name. (that just so happens to have voted for goopers in the past because he thought they'd be better on defense issues)

It's fucking sickening to me as a proud Democrat that these impressions have been allowed to become accepted wisdom, and that we've been cowed and bullied and beaten so thoroughly into becoming reactionary wimps wherein the gop writes the script and we cower in the corner hoping to hell we can find anyone to play the role they wrote for us.

Posted by: jdw at January 17, 2004 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

This is the link to the David Shipler article I mentioned earlier. Read it and think about what hope a Democratic candidate could offer the Caroline Paynes of the world:

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/18/magazine/18POOR.html?ex=1075369976&ei=1&en=1917bdfac296a138

Posted by: Hozee at January 17, 2004 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I don't know what you're worried about - the concerns of "the left" are basically the liberal values that most people believe in. People want Social Security and Medicare, people want universal healthcare. People want good public schools for their kids, people want wars only when they are necessary and proper treatment of our soldiers if we have to fight, people want high standards of worker protections, etc.

The problem isn't swinging to the left, it's just getting the message out on what we actually believe in.

Note to Ted: The Democrats could always run as the party of fiscal responsibility. The Republicans have always run up debt and distributed lots of pork. They've always been worse for jobs and worse for Wall Street. The story about their fiscal responsibility is one of those Big Lies.

avedis: Don't confuse what the left does with what the right says it does. Just because someone produces a paper on Ebonics doesn't mean the entire left is trying to promote it.

As to porn: The average father has trouble envisioning a sex life for his daughter at all, and if we did what our dads want we'd only have sex that one or two times that was absolutely necessary for the production of grandchildren. Perhaps you should ask yourself how many other jobs are available to your daughter and whether some of the more "respectable" ones are actually much crummier - because quite a few are. I suspect you know a lot less about both the porn industry and "women's jobs" in general than you think you do.

It's not actually "liberals" who advocate gun control, it's significant numbers of people on both sides of the political spectrum. Gun rights are a big issue with a particular group of single-issues voters who tend to be on the right, but many liberals are gun-owners who advocate gun rights, too.

And liberals are the ones with the real family values. We don't get married just because we are horny and we don't get divorced over trivia (like wanting a trophy wife).

idw: Conservatives "harp on those failures" because they weren't failures. The liberal programs they call "failures" offended them not because they failed, but because they worked. It's all very well to say that in the 1990s they didn't seem to be working so well, but that's largely because conservatives had hamstrung those programs by "reforming" them. For example, by requiring households that collect welfare to be fatherless, they broke up poor families and turned broken homes into the norm.

goodlesscapitalist: I've heard this meme that Bush isn't right-wing before, and it's still bunk. Bush is doing exactly what the right-wing has always done - claim principles to defend the underlying agenda. The principles used to be states' rights and fiscal responsibility, but they've never observed those principles in practice unless they served the real agenda, which was to stymie racial and sexual equality and to privilege the wealthy over the poor and ordinary working people. The Bush Medicare boondoggle is classic right-wingism, meant to destroy the Medicare system while funnelling taxpayers' money to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. (It even prohibits Medicare from negotiating prices - what principle is that supposed to serve?)

GT: It has always been right-wing to expand government in the security area. The difference between Bush and his conservative predecessors is that he is doing more of it to less effect in terms of actual national security, but he is certainly doing what the right has always done - aim most of its "security" efforts at suppressing dissent and scapegoating certain minorities. Meanwhile, he has defunded just about everything that liberals support, from public education to military benefits. And while conservatives may not debate the aims of Social Security - only the means - this is a dodge, since their proposals for it are clearly intended to destroy the program. That's no liberal victory.

Katherine: In my experience, quite a few of the Democrats who allegedly lack charisma deliver for the crowd when you get to see them. The trouble is the media paints them as something else. Even Edwards gives wonderful speeches - but you didn't know that unless you have read them or seen them. The media certainly isn't going to tell you, anymore than they told you that Al Gore gave passionate speeches on the campaign trail that made people love him and cheer.

Hozee: The Republicans have locked up corporations solid, no Democrat today can run as pro-corporate the way Clinton did, because they will get no donations that way. If they don't run to the people, they will be broke. That's why Dean is doing so well - he is not even wasting his time sucking up to the corporations.

Cutting the defense budget and weakening defense are two entirely different things. The Republicans like to spend money on pie-in-the-sky equipment (and expensive toilet seats), but that doesn't make them strong on defense. Bush is dramatically weakening our military while spending out the whazoo.

serial catowner: could we ever admit that "throwing money at problems" is exactly how we solve most of them? As a young person I didn't want to "throw money at problems" and I fixed my own plumbing, electrical etc. Eventually I learned the golden rule- get a job- get some money- throw it at your problem- and you won't spend the rest of your life re-inventing the wheel.

That's absolutely right.

Posted by: Avedon at January 17, 2004 01:21 PM | PERMALINK

I just want to second Hozee's recommendation--go read the NYT Sunday Magazine article on the working poor.

One thing I really appreciated in the Shipler article was his willingness to point out that "market forces" are a sacred cow in our society. No social worker or doctor in the story ever thought of asking the woman's employer to give her daytime working hours, because what the employer wants is sacrosanct and the market knows all.

The Democrats surrendered on exactly this point sometime in the Carter era and Reagan's election just reinforced it. Until they start saying that the free market isn't always right, they'll always be playing defense.

Not, of course, that the Republicans really believe in laissez faire economics. They chose a crony capitalist like Bush for a reason. But they pretend to believe in the fanatic free market ideology and Democrats allow both their hypocrisy and the basic ideology to go unchallenged.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at January 17, 2004 02:00 PM | PERMALINK

One of Democrat's biggest problems is that we are our own worst enemies. Howard Dean is a candidate who has proven he can raise money to compete with the Repuglicans, who has generated a passionate, loyal, ever-growing following, who's poll numbers were growing exponentially, and what do we do? Because the established hierarchy of the Democrat Party(DLC, the Clintons, Terry McCauliffe(sp?), the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate, etc.) sees Dean as a threat to their power, future plans, self-absorbed schemes, "THEY"(Read US--or own damn Party)sets about systematically destroying his campaign. Thus, we see the stories on Dean's wife, his sleeping medication, his "anger," his "gaffes," his "insincerety," his "instability," etc. Wake up, people--or own established elites are the biggest obstacles we face. Howard Dean was poised to run away with Iowa and New Hampshire(and start a steamroller to the nomination) and these SOBs(particularly the Clintons and their minions) couldn't/wouldn't stand for it. So it's, "Let's move to the middle, don't speak too aggressively, be sensible--don't offend anyone." In other words, "Hand the damn election to the Texas Maroon. I am sickened by this. We talk about taking back the country--Hell, let's start with our own Party. Don't listen to the crap you hear our own Party spread about Dr. Dean. He is a strong, good-hearted man who can lead us forward as a country. Screw the DLC and its plans for Hillary in 2008. The future starts now! Open-minded Democrats/liberals know what I am saying is true.

Posted by: BushMustGo at January 17, 2004 02:17 PM | PERMALINK

1. Kevin, I think you're right to state in your last paragraph that ideological purity is a luxury we can ill afford this year. I've largely argued something similar over the last year: a little discipline right now can go a long ways.

2. Joe Schoe's comments about "Most of the issues which used to motivate the left -- racism, sexism, the pro-choice movement -- are no longer relevant today" is way off the mark. Affirmative action laws have certainly helped address the first two of those issues, but we should realize that changing behavior and changing the attitudes underlying the behavior are two different beasts, with the attitudes being the most difficult to change (think about research on modern racism, which aptly demonstrates that racism hasn't gone away, but has simply gone underground or outside of conscious awareness). With the pro-choice movement, again, the Supreme Court ruling from three decades ago had a telling effect on behavior, but the anti-choice attitudes are still held by a critical mass of individuals, many of whom are willing to go to whatever means necessary to turn back the hands of time and numerous authority figures who are more than happy to wink and nod as anti-choice vigilantes engage in various efforts to threaten and engage in acts of intimidation and violence. Advocating complacency on those issues to me would be foolish at best.

Posted by: James at January 17, 2004 03:06 PM | PERMALINK

When Howard Dean (of whom I'm not a big fan) said that Hussein's capture did nothing to make America safer, he made a halting step toward doing one of the things Democrats need to do if they are to defeat Bush: establish that "national security" has nothing to do with reckless bravado and tilting at symbolic bogeymen. The fact that his major opponents attacked him for this and essentially endorsed the Bush policies suggests that to them forsaking "ideological purity" in order to attract "swing voters" means acting like nicer Republicans.

I'll take ideological purity, thank you very much.

Posted by: Hozee at January 17, 2004 03:33 PM | PERMALINK

Hozee--My sentiments egggzactly. These people are NOT representative of a progressive movement. This is old-school thinking that is resistant to change, hostile towards ugly truth, and not equipped to lead this country into the future.

Posted by: BushMustGo at January 17, 2004 03:43 PM | PERMALINK

By the way, after you've read the David Shipler piece, enjoy this chaser:

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/18/national/18WALM.html?ex=1075383300&ei=1&en=e39ad9b0c5c95050

Posted by: Hozee at January 17, 2004 03:50 PM | PERMALINK

Avedon,

I am no Bush fan but where did you get that he is defunding all the programs liebrals care about? The non-defense budget is rising faster under Bush than it did under Clinton. And his expansion of Medicare is the biggest since it was created.

Are you a daughter? As the proud father of two girls I have decided they can start dating after they are married!

Posted by: GT at January 17, 2004 05:05 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, GT, the non-defense budget is rising faster under Bush than it did under Clinton, but merely pouring more money into a program doesn't mean the program is aimed at its actual stated goal. No Child Left Behind is largely unfunded, as are most of the programs Bush claims to support. The Medicare expansion money goes to the insurerers and Big Pharma, not to medical practitioners and patients.

Yes, I'm a daughter, and I adored my father, but we got on a whole lot better once I convinced him that women actually like good sex and I was having fun. I didn't go into the porn business, of course - I was much too proud to take off my clothes for money - but I'm not so sure that was the wisest decision, in retrospect. Trust me, you can be thoroughly degraded and abused - and much more seriously underpaid - without going anywhere near the sex industry.

Posted by: Avedon at January 17, 2004 05:29 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you have to have the strategy in place before the election, and committed to, or winning doesn't accomplish a whole lot.

Clinton ran as a people-centered center-left candidate, and then before he even took office changed his course, in order to balance the budget, to be a center-right Eisenhower Republican.

To avoid this from happening, since this is what business elites will push for, the strategy and agenda need to be on the platform.

Also, an economic strategy that champions the people, while placating the elite monied interests enough to forego a capital strike, and strengthens the hand of labor so that real wages actually rise with the economy and productivity, rather than remain stagnant in the insecure environment of capital and trade globalization, is the holy grail.

How to do it?

Posted by: freelixir at January 17, 2004 05:29 PM | PERMALINK

Part of this must involve more accurate and progressive prices and taxation (in terms of natural capital and resources), tax shifting, and incentives to productivity and labor increasing investment and enterprise (like infrastructure and alternative forms of transportation).

Posted by: freelixir at January 17, 2004 05:32 PM | PERMALINK

" I was much too proud to take off my clothes for money "

Reminds me of a Playboy cartoon I once read (only for the articles, I promise!) where two guys are talking and one says to the other "I never believed in paying for it, that's why I'll never get married."

Posted by: GT at January 17, 2004 06:01 PM | PERMALINK

"The Bush Medicare boondoggle is classic right-wingism, meant to destroy the Medicare system while funnelling taxpayers' money to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. (It even prohibits Medicare from negotiating prices - what principle is that supposed to serve?)"

OK, how in the hell are you supposed to buy medicine for seniors without giving money to the pharmaceutical industry? Steal it? Shake them down? What's your plan here?

"I think he's right: we do need to have a long-term strategy to promote liberal values and policies. Although I think the rightward drift of American politics is often exaggerated, it is real and Republicans have outplayed us in this arena. Fixing this is, to coin a phrase, a long, hard slog."

There had damn well better be a "rightward drift", given the extreme "leftward drift" lasting more than half a goddamned century. I think after that, more than a little "rightward drift" is more than called for.

"Even the still open issues (SS reform) the debate has moved to the left. There was a time wehn conservatives were against SS on principle. SS is, after all, the government forcing you to save for old age (yes, and life and disability insurance as well). Conservatives used to argue that govt should not be forcing people to do that."

And they were absolutely, 100% right. Where the hell does the government get off telling someone who doesn't even know if he'll live to see 65 that he is required by law to give up 15% of his income and never see it again until that age?

"On what, Joe? They've been pretty much correct for the past 100 years or so, which is why much of the left's agenda has been adopted. They're even more correct today."

The left's agenda was adopted because it sounded like a good deal for a majority of the voters, who figured they'd get some good loot out of the deal. And direct some loot to the lower classes, so that they could feel good about themselves without having to part with more than a small fraction of the money involved. And it appears to some to be "correct" only because the incomparably higher level of wealth that we would have had - across the board - if the policies of the left had never been implemented is not readily visible.

"On economics the victory is large but not as absolute. If you define deregulation as right wing clearly there has been a movement to the right. But I would argue that on many issues deregulation is actually a move to the left (or maybe that the left/right divide does not apply). Think of deregulation that has resulted in reduced costs for consumers."

Deregulating is left wing if it reduces costs for consumers? Yeah, sure it is.

"No longer. Conservatives no longer debate the aims of SS, only the means. And even if they are successful and manage to fully 'privatize' SS that will likely increase the role of Govt, which will be heavily regulating the investments allowed."

Which is an even stupider idea than Social Security. Giving the government such leverage over enterprises that are, or might be, part of this mandated investment scheme is a bad idea.

"And hey, what about "defense"? We can't even remember what we're trying to do here, so we just keep spending on weapons with a vague hope that someday one of them might be useful for something."

You mean like, conducting a nontrivial war with a triple-digit body count and destroying military targets surrounded by civilians without killing all the civilians?

I'd say that our wonder weapons have turned out to be pretty damned useful.

Posted by: Ken at January 18, 2004 04:23 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you have to have the strategy in place before the election, and committed to, or winning doesn't accomplish a whole lot.

Clinton ran as a people-centered center-left candidate, and then before he even took office changed his course, in order to balance the budget, to be a center-right Eisenhower Republican.

To avoid this from happening, since this is what business elites will push for, the strategy and agenda need to be on the platform.

Also, an economic strategy that champions the people, while placating the elite monied interests enough to forego a capital strike, and strengthens the hand of labor so that real wages actually rise with the economy and productivity, rather than remain stagnant in the insecure environment of capital and trade globalization, is the holy grail.

How to do it?

Part of this must involve more accurate and progressive prices and taxation (in terms of natural capital and resources), tax shifting, and incentives to productivity and labor increasing investment and enterprise (like infrastructure and alternative forms of transportation).

Posted by: freelixir at January 19, 2004 01:20 AM | PERMALINK

Hozee, one problem with trying to equate Dean with ideological purity is that Dean himself eschews ideologues. I'd offer that one could say pretty objectively that thus far the capture of Saddam Hussein has not made the US safer -- it just ended up being one of those much ballyhooed non-events. Hussein's isolated hole in the ground was no headquarters for leading an opposition: it was merely a hiding place for a bully and a coward (what's up with these fascist despots and hiding underground any way?). The guerilla war in Iraq continues largely unabated. And even the people who are likely to try to argue that we are safer are acting more paranoid than ever: take a look at how we're handling international air flights in the aftermath of Saddam's capture, the orange color code (right after the great capture; what's up with that?), and the likelihood that these cats still probably keep their plastic and duct tape close at hand. If we're presumably safer, shouldn't we be chilling out a little, rather than amping up the paranoia?

My guess is that at least among the right wing's ideologues that there is a fair amount of compartmentalized thinking: somehow they can crow about Saddam's capture while discounting that their own behavior betrays an increased fearfulness. I also doubt they can see that because their ideology blinds them. Maybe that's why I'm no big fan of ideological purity: such purity comes at a price, and that price is being able to rationally process information that may be contrary to one's own position.

As I saw it, Dean's Democrat opponents did themselves no favors by immediately dissing his statements regarding Saddam and embracing the wingnut argument that things are so much better now. If they were trying to appeal to a "rational center" they failed, as they came across as making a knee-jerk emotion-laden response.

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